Mike Glasscott

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Inside the Ropes

Shell Houston Open

Redstone Golf Club (Tournament Course) Humble, Tex.

Tournament Course

Yards: 7,457

Par: 72 (36-36)

Rough: 1.25”

Average green size: 6,700 square feet

Stimpmeter: 13+ feet

Bunkers: 60

Water Hazards: 13

Course Architect:  Rees Jones and Player-Consultant David Toms (2005)

Notes:  Miniverde Bermudagrass over seeded with bentgrass and Poa trivialis greens; TifSport Bermudagrass and ryegrass fairways and rough.  Gamers, the Tournament Course has been the host since 2006 so historical data before that point will not carry weight with me this week.

Purse: $6,000,000

Winner’s Share: $1,080,000 and 500 FedExCup Points

Defending Champion: Phil Mickelson defeated Scott Verplank and Chris Kirk by three shots.

Date:  Mar 29-Apr 1




Since 1946, the Houston area has hosted a PGA Tour event.  This is the 10th-longest running tournament on the PGA Tour. 

Only two Texans have won this event since 1996, Mark Brooks and Johnson Wagner (2008).

In six tournaments at the Tournament Course at Redstone (2006 first year), there is only one first-time Tour winner, Johnson Wagner.

Paul Casey won here in 2009 in his first appearance for his first career Tour victory.  Mike Heinen in 1994 was the last player to win in his first appearance at Shell Houston Open (SHO).

The six winners of the SHO at the Tournament Course are:

Stuart Appleby (2006)

Adam Scott (2007)

Johnson Wagner (2008)

Paul Casey (2009)-Playoff

Anthony Kim (2010)

Phil Mickelson (2011)

Nine of the 14 winners this year on Tour won when they were ranked in the top 50 OWGR.

Eight of the 14 winners this year on Tour played in the 2011 Tour Championship.

After 13 tournaments this season, the young guys are leading the old guys, 8-4-2.  The young contingent, Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker (31), Kyle Stanley (24), Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21), Hunter Mahan (29), Rory McIlroy (22) and Justin Rose are flying the flag for the young ‘uns.  Mark Wilson (37), George McNeill (36), Luke Donald (34) and now Tiger Woods (36) are the “four” in the middle.  Steve Stricker (44) and Phil Mickelson (41) are the “old” guys who have hit the winner’s circle this year.

Stuart Appleby and Vijay Singh was won the SHO multiple times, but not at the current course.

There have been zero multiple winners on Tour in 2012.


So What?  So Let’s Dance!


The Tournament Course at Redstone ranked 29th of 51 courses played on Tour in 2011.  The course was built specifically for a Tour event by Rees Jones and David Toms and opened in 2005.  The course is built free from residential development and it’s cut among woodlands and wetlands. 


The GCSAA notes “In 2007, when the date of the Shell Houston Open changed to the week before the Masters, Redstone made changes to the golf course set-up to try and emulate conditions players would face at Augusta, which included mowing patterns, adding short grass all around the greens, shaved banks around greens and a push for faster, smoother greens surfaces.” 


This year, there are even more shaved areas around the greens to encourage creativity with the short game in preparation for Augusta next week.  Usually, the week before a major players tend to want to spend time practicing.  The SHO was smart to design the course similar to Augusta to encourage players to play the week before.  Johnson Wagner is the only golfer to take advantage of the Masters invite in the last five years.  All other winners were already eligible.


The Tournament Course at Redstone average winning score in the previous six years has been almost 16-under-par.  Keys this week are making birdies, putting and making more birdies.  Phil Mickelson had 27 of them last year in shooting 20-under and was T3 in putts per GIR.  Scott Verplank made 23 birdies and led the event in PPGIR and putts per round.  Chris Kirk also made 23 birdies and was first GIR.  It’s a pretty simple formula:  Hit greens, make putts, win tournaments.  Hank Haney tweeted yesterday that every winner on Tour this year has finished in the top 10 in putting.


This is a strange week.  The winner gets a trip to the 2012 Masters if he hasn’t already qualified.  What’s strange about that?  Only two golfers in history have gone on to win The Masters the following week, Sandy Lyle (Greater Greensboro Open 1988) and Phil Mickelson (2006 Bell-South Classic).   Phil was about 200 under par in those ten days if I remember correctly.  But I digress.  Here we go!  


Premium, High Octane:


My top five picks, in order, as always. 


Steve Stricker: He’s a great putter, he has a great wedge game, he hits tons of GIR and he’s well-rested.  He has hit the top 10 three times this year including his season-opening victory at HTOC.  In six career starts at SHO since they’ve moved to the Tournament Course at Redstone, Stricker has finished T4, CUT, T11, T9, 3rd and T62.  I haven’t projected the same winner twice this season and Stricker’s numbers give me no reason to break that streak this week.  Plus I like cheese and chalk. Or is it chalk and cheese. Wait, do I have the wrong guy?


Graeme McDowell: In three stroke-play events in 2012 he’s finished second, T13 and T9.  After a quiet 2011 due to an equipment change and whirlwind world-tour, it looks like the “old” G-MAC is settling in and just playing golf again.  He finished T1 GIR last week at API as runner-up to Tiger Woods.  He’s only played here once, finishing T54 in 2006, but I can’t argue with his current form and state of mind.


Lee Westwood: His worst finish in 2012 is T29 and that was his last time out at WGC-CC where an opening round 76 set him back.  He rallied on the final three days to fire nine-under par.  His best finishes are fourths at WGC-Match Play and Honda.  He loves the heat and the course at Redstone and has finished T30, T8 and T11 in his only three starts here.  Ball striking won’t be a problem this week; it rarely is with Westwood.  His putter will have to be the difference.


Johnson Wagner: I might be reaching here but the 2008 champion has had an unbelievable first quarter in 2012.  I was joking earlier about “the year of the moustache”, but I think I might be on to something.  In nine starts, Wagner has made the cut eight times.  He has hit the top 25 six times, the top 10 four times, has been second and has won.  He also leads the Tour in birdies and is in the top of the putting categories.  Other than that, I have no reason to take him this week.  Maybe I should grow a moustache…


Phil Mickelson: No golfer drives me as mad as Mickelson does.  I think I’ve been on him once this season when he’s played well and that was P2 at NTO.  He’s maddening to try and solve but since he’s coming off a quiet week at API, I think he’ll be ready for the challenge of defending his title.  Or he won’t.  I have no clue and my record on him proves that.  It’s hard to turn a blind eye to a guy who’s putting it lights-out and who made TWENTY SEVEN birdies here last year.  Plus, he’s won the week before The Masters so he won’t be bothered by any silly numerology.



Hunter Mahan: After winning the WGC-Match Play, Mahan’s game has stalled out with only one round of eight in the 60’s.  This week, Mahan makes his way back into the top 10 as his ball striking regains form on a course that he’s more than comfortable playing.  He’s made the cut in four of six starts here finishing T8, CUT, T6, CUT, T5 and T11.  Sounds like what the doctor ordered to tune his game up for Augusta next week. 


Keegan Bradley: I would have rated him higher but I always get nervous when a guy takes a few weeks off.  It usually takes a round or two to get back into the groove but once Bradley gets rolling, he’s hard to stop.  His worst finish in eight starts in 2012 in full-field events is T22.  His last two times out, he’s finished T8 and T12 even though his final two rounds were 75 and 73, respectively. 


Aaron Baddeley: His last time out he tore up WGC-CC at Doral going nine-under on the weekend.  A supreme putter plus ranking seventh in birdie average has “Badds” back on the radar this week.  His last three times out in stroke-play have resulted in 12th, T11 and fourth.  Like Bradley, Baddeley has also been off since WGC-CC but I believe the slick greens will play right into his strength.  His last four starts here he’s posted T4, T50, CUT and T14. 


Bud Cauley: Another player who has been in-and-out of my weekly projections has found himself back in after his last two outings on Tour.  Cauley finished T4 last week and T16 at TC before that.  His fortuned changed at Honda after a first round 75; he backed that up with 67 on Friday to bounce back but he still missed the cut.  Since that 75 he’s been par or better in eight of his last nine rounds.  He only trails Johnson Wagner in birdies made in 2012. 


Ernie Els: You have to feel bad for Ernie over the last two weeks.  He struggled on the final three holes two weeks ago and missed out on his first win since 2010 and a four-man playoff.  Last week, he needed a solo-third finish or better to qualify for The Masters and that didn’t happen.  It was surreal seeing the “Twitterverse” begging people to cheer for Ernie or for Augusta to give him a special exemption.  Els has won three majors and two WGC titles as part of his 18 Tour wins. During all of this, Els has been playing some great golf finishing T4 last week, T5 at TC and T21 at Honda.  Els has one last shot this week to get into The Masters and third place alone this week won’t do it.  He must win.


Regular Octane:


Charl Schwartzel: The last time I put him on the front page he responded with MC at TC after finishing T5 at Honda and T4 WGC-CC.  Schwartzel has been excellent for almost 12 full months.  He finished T16 or better in all four majors including his victory at Augusta last year.  His record at SHO is admirable with T30 last year and T3 in 2010.  If these greens are slick, they won’t bother the defending Masters champion.


Ben Crane: Even though Crane was CUT last week at API, he still hit the OWGR Top 50 and became eligible for The Masters.  Crane earned his way in earlier in 2012 as he started the year T9, T8, CUT and second.  Crane has been quiet in his last four starts, with T30 at Honda being his best finish.  Crane has no problem making birdies and his putter can carry him through.  Crane is currently third on Tour in Birdie or Better Conversion Percentage.  In four career starts, Crane has finished T24, T25, CUT and T20 at SHO.


Kyle Stanley: He started 2012 on fire but has since cooled down as winter carried on.  After losing in a playoff at FIO, he went out and won the next week at WMPO.  He backed that with a T24 at NTO.  Since then, he won one match at WGC-Match Play, was CUT at Honda and finished T51 at WGC-CC.  He’s had some time off to recharge his battery and a birdie-fest this week can help him get back on track.  He needed birdies at FIO and WMPO and no problem putting them up in those events so don’t be too distracted by his putting numbers; all his other numbers are way above average.   He crushes it off the tee and is a GIR and birdie machine.


Bryce Molder: After taking a month off from the middle of February until Transitions in the middle of March, Molder’s game picked up right where he left off.  Molder opened with 67 and closed with 66 at TC to hit the top 25 for the fifth time in 2012.  Molder is eight in GIR and 15th in strokes gained-putting.  Nice combo.  He was CUT last year but T8 in 2010.


Chris Stroud:  He’s made five cuts from eight starts in 2012.  His five finishes are T13, T12, T5, T9 and T15 last week.  He made the cut in his last three and is one of the best putters on Tour.   Also, his scrambling is top five on Tour.  It’s hard to ignore his last three starts and a g’uy who can roll the rock that well. 




Kevin Streelman:  Streelman hit the top 10 at TC with four rounds in the 60’s to finish T10 in his last time out.  He might get overlooked this week but can putt it well enough to contend. 


Kevin Stadler: Finished T6 in 2009 and has had a solid run over the last few weeks.  In his last two stroke-play events he’s finished T7 PRO and T9 at Honda.


Chad Campbell: Campbell’s last four times out at Redstone, he’s finished T13, T25, T49 and T2.  Strictly a horse-for-course pick this week after coming off T42 at API.


Josh Teater: After making the cut his first five times out in 2012, Teater has finished CUT, T60, CUT and T42.  He’s finished T19 and T14 his only two times at SHO.  Stretching.

Brian Harman: In his last five starts, he’s been T15, CUT, T12, T26 and T20.  He’s an above-average putter and birdie maker.  Shhhhhhhhh.


Pay at the Pump:


Carl Pettersson: In two starts at SHO his best finish is T50.  Since his season-opening T2 at Sony, his best finish is T33 at WMPO. 


Spencer Levin: I swung and missed badly on this one last week.  He fired 81-75 at API after making eight cuts in a row.  I’ll take my chances elsewhere this week and wait for Levin to get back on track.


Anthony Kim: Showed signs of life last week after making his second cut in three events only to end the weekend with 83.  Even though he’s a former champion, I need to see at least one round lower than 69 to get back on his bus. 


Paul Casey: In only his third start back from injury, the 2009 champion has more questions than answers in his game right now.  One more week of preparation just might make him a tasty outsider at Augusta where he has hit the top 20 in four of seven career starts.


Stuart Appleby: Since his win here in 2006 (first year as host course) he’s been trending the wrong direction with finishes of CUT last year, T44, T31,T23, second and the victory.  The same goes for his Tour record in 2012 as he’s been CUT in four of six starts with his best finish T21 at Honda. 


Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge:  Shell Houston Open

Group 1: Steve Stricker

Group 2: Jimmy Walker

Group 3: Bud Cauley

Group 4: Brian Harman


Ned said, “…

Ned Brown is a long-time contributor for Rotoworld Golf.  He’s had documented success in Yahoo!’s game for years.  Even if you’re confident in your selections for that game, give his insight a read.

Full Disclosure:  I am NOT Ned! He’s smarter and better looking!


Group A

Steve Stricker-- He has only played in three stroke play events on this year's TOUR, but he has a win at the TOC and a T8 at Doral. In five starts at the Redstone Tournament course, Stricker has four top-11s including a T4 last year.
Phil Mickelson-- A tough call between Keegan Bradley and Mickelson. Bradley has only one career start at the SHO, so I'm opting to use Mickelson, who is the defending champion
Ryan Moore-- It's temping to take Chris Stroud in this spot, but his history is horrible at the SHO. Ryan Moore looked good last week with a T4 at the API, and even though his history at the SHO is limited, he did T11 here in '09.
Group B
Lee Westwood-- He was on a roll going into Doral, where he tied for 29th place. I'm betting he will do better this week. Westwood has played at the Tournament course four times and has finished in the top-11 (T11 in '09, T8 in '10) in two of them.
Ernie Els-- Els had a real shot last week to win at Bay Hill, but his putter went ice cold in the final round. A win puts him in the Masters, so I'm rolling with him and hoping that his putting is like it was in the first three rounds of the API.
Hunter Mahan-- Last week's T42 at the API was by far his worst tournament of the year. I'm picking him hoping that he rebounds at a course where he has four top-11 finishes in six starts.
Ryan Moore-- It's temping to take Chris Stroud in this spot, but his history is horrible at the SHO. Ryan Moore looked good last week with a T4 at the API, and even though his history at the SHO is limited, he did T11 here in '09.
Group C
Graeme McDowell-- He has been on a roll in the last month and he looked great last week at the API, where he finished in second place. His history at the SHO is very light and it really doesn't factor in this week.
Johnson Wagner-- Johnson was the hottest player in the first month of this year's TOUR and he is starting to heat up again, with a T13 at Doral and a T4 at the API. Surprisingly, his recent history at the SHO has been lackluster after a T9 in '07 and championship in '08.

“And another thing…”

The analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat with GolfChannel.com's Ryan Ballengee on Wednesday at NOON . They will be breaking down the field at SHO and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.

Fantasy Golf columnist Mike Glasscott joined Rotoworld in 2012. He can be contacted via email at RotoworldGlass@gmail.com or on Twitter.
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